HANS IN LUCK
Some men are born to good luck: all they do or try to do comes right--
all that falls to them is so much gain--all their geese are swans--all
their cards are trumps--toss them which way you will, they will
always, like poor puss, alight upon their legs, and only move on so
much the faster. The world may very likely not always think of them as
they think of themselves, but what care they for the world? what can
it know about the matter?
One of these lucky beings was neighbour Hans. Seven long years he had
worked hard for his master. At last he said, 'Master, my time is up; I
must go home and see my poor mother once more: so pray pay me my wages
and let me go.' And the master said, 'You have been a faithful and
good servant, Hans, so your pay shall be handsome.' Then he gave him a
lump of silver as big as his head.
Hans took out his pocket-handkerchief, put the piece of silver into
it, threw it over his shoulder, and jogged off on his road homewards.
As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after another, a man came in
sight, trotting gaily along on a capital horse. 'Ah!' said Hans aloud,
'what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback! There he sits as easy
and happy as if he was at home, in the chair by his fireside; he trips
against no stones, saves shoe-leather, and gets on he hardly knows
how.' Hans did not speak so softly but the horseman heard it all, and
said, 'Well, friend, why do you go on foot then?' 'Ah!' said he, 'I
have this load to carry: to be sure it is silver, but it is so heavy
that I can't hold up my head, and you must know it hurts my shoulder
sadly.' 'What do you say of making an exchange?' said the horseman. 'I
will give you my horse, and you shall give me the silver; which will
save you a great deal of trouble in carrying such a heavy load about
with you.' 'With all my heart,' said Hans: 'but as you are so kind to
me, I must tell you one thing--you will have a weary task to draw that
silver about with you.' However, the horseman got off, took the
silver, helped Hans up, gave him the bridle into one hand and the whip
into the other, and said, 'When you want to go very fast, smack your
lips loudly together, and cry "Jip!"'
Hans was delighted as he sat on the horse, drew himself up, squared
his elbows, turned out his toes, cracked his whip, and rode merrily
off, one minute whistling a merry tune, and another singing,
'No care and no sorrow,
A fig for the morrow!
We'll laugh and be merry,
Sing neigh down derry!'
After a time he thought he should like to go a little faster, so he
smacked his lips and cried 'Jip!' Away went the horse full gallop; and
before Hans knew what he was about, he was thrown off, and lay on his
back by the road-side. His horse would have ran off, if a shepherd who
was coming by, driving a cow, had not stopped it. Hans soon came to
himself, and got upon his legs again, sadly vexed, and said to the
shepherd, 'This riding is no joke, when a man has the luck to get upon
a beast like this that stumbles and flings him off as if it would
break his neck. However, I'm off now once for all: I like your cow now
a great deal better than this smart beast that played me this trick,
and has spoiled my best coat, you see, in this puddle; which, by the
by, smells not very like a nosegay. One can walk along at one's
leisure behind that cow--keep good company, and have milk, butter, and
cheese, every day, into the bargain. What would I give to have such a
prize!' 'Well,' said the shepherd, 'if you are so fond of her, I will
change my cow for your horse; I like to do good to my neighbours, even
though I lose by it myself.' 'Done!' said Hans, merrily. 'What a noble
heart that good man has!' thought he. Then the shepherd jumped upon
the horse, wished Hans and the cow good morning, and away he rode.
Hans brushed his coat, wiped his face and hands, rested a while, and
then drove off his cow quietly, and thought his bargain a very lucky
one. 'If I have only a piece of bread (and I certainly shall always be
able to get that), I can, whenever I like, eat my butter and cheese
with it; and when I am thirsty I can milk my cow and drink the milk:
and what can I wish for more?' When he came to an inn, he halted, ate
up all his bread, and gave away his last penny for a glass of beer.
When he had rested himself he set off again, driving his cow towards
his mother's village. But the heat grew greater as soon as noon came
on, till at last, as he found himself on a wide heath that would take
him more than an hour to cross, he began to be so hot and parched that
his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth. 'I can find a cure for
this,' thought he; 'now I will milk my cow and quench my thirst': so
he tied her to the stump of a tree, and held his leathern cap to milk
into; but not a drop was to be had. Who would have thought that this
cow, which was to bring him milk and butter and cheese, was all that
time utterly dry? Hans had not thought of looking to that.
While he was trying his luck in milking, and managing the matter very
clumsily, the uneasy beast began to think him very troublesome; and at
last gave him such a kick on the head as knocked him down; and there
he lay a long while senseless. Luckily a butcher soon came by, driving
a pig in a wheelbarrow. 'What is the matter with you, my man?' said
the butcher, as he helped him up. Hans told him what had happened, how
he was dry, and wanted to milk his cow, but found the cow was dry too.
Then the butcher gave him a flask of ale, saying, 'There, drink and
refresh yourself; your cow will give you no milk: don't you see she is
an old beast, good for nothing but the slaughter-house?' 'Alas, alas!'
said Hans, 'who would have thought it? What a shame to take my horse,
and give me only a dry cow! If I kill her, what will she be good for?
I hate cow-beef; it is not tender enough for me. If it were a pig now
--like that fat gentleman you are driving along at his ease--one could
do something with it; it would at any rate make sausages.' 'Well,'
said the butcher, 'I don't like to say no, when one is asked to do a
kind, neighbourly thing. To please you I will change, and give you my
fine fat pig for the cow.' 'Heaven reward you for your kindness and
self-denial!' said Hans, as he gave the butcher the cow; and taking
the pig off the wheel-barrow, drove it away, holding it by the string
that was tied to its leg.
So on he jogged, and all seemed now to go right with him: he had met
with some misfortunes, to be sure; but he was now well repaid for all.
How could it be otherwise with such a travelling companion as he had
at last got?
The next man he met was a countryman carrying a fine white goose. The
countryman stopped to ask what was o'clock; this led to further chat;
and Hans told him all his luck, how he had so many good bargains, and
how all the world went gay and smiling with him. The countryman than
began to tell his tale, and said he was going to take the goose to a
christening. 'Feel,' said he, 'how heavy it is, and yet it is only
eight weeks old. Whoever roasts and eats it will find plenty of fat
upon it, it has lived so well!' 'You're right,' said Hans, as he
weighed it in his hand; 'but if you talk of fat, my pig is no trifle.'
Meantime the countryman began to look grave, and shook his head. 'Hark
ye!' said he, 'my worthy friend, you seem a good sort of fellow, so I
can't help doing you a kind turn. Your pig may get you into a scrape.
In the village I just came from, the squire has had a pig stolen out
of his sty. I was dreadfully afraid when I saw you that you had got
the squire's pig. If you have, and they catch you, it will be a bad
job for you. The least they will do will be to throw you into the
horse-pond. Can you swim?'
Poor Hans was sadly frightened. 'Good man,' cried he, 'pray get me out
of this scrape. I know nothing of where the pig was either bred or
born; but he may have been the squire's for aught I can tell: you know
this country better than I do, take my pig and give me the goose.' 'I
ought to have something into the bargain,' said the countryman; 'give
a fat goose for a pig, indeed! 'Tis not everyone would do so much for
you as that. However, I will not be hard upon you, as you are in
trouble.' Then he took the string in his hand, and drove off the pig
by a side path; while Hans went on the way homewards free from care.
'After all,' thought he, 'that chap is pretty well taken in. I don't
care whose pig it is, but wherever it came from it has been a very
good friend to me. I have much the best of the bargain. First there
will be a capital roast; then the fat will find me in goose-grease for
six months; and then there are all the beautiful white feathers. I
will put them into my pillow, and then I am sure I shall sleep soundly
without rocking. How happy my mother will be! Talk of a pig, indeed!
Give me a fine fat goose.'
As he came to the next village, he saw a scissor-grinder with his
wheel, working and singing,
'O'er hill and o'er dale
So happy I roam,
Work light and live well,
All the world is my home;
Then who so blythe, so merry as I?'
Hans stood looking on for a while, and at last said, 'You must be well
off, master grinder! you seem so happy at your work.' 'Yes,' said the
other, 'mine is a golden trade; a good grinder never puts his hand
into his pocket without finding money in it--but where did you get
that beautiful goose?' 'I did not buy it, I gave a pig for it.' 'And
where did you get the pig?' 'I gave a cow for it.' 'And the cow?' 'I
gave a horse for it.' 'And the horse?' 'I gave a lump of silver as big
as my head for it.' 'And the silver?' 'Oh! I worked hard for that
seven long years.' 'You have thriven well in the world hitherto,' said
the grinder, 'now if you could find money in your pocket whenever you
put your hand in it, your fortune would be made.' 'Very true: but how
is that to be managed?' 'How? Why, you must turn grinder like myself,'
said the other; 'you only want a grindstone; the rest will come of
itself. Here is one that is but little the worse for wear: I would not
ask more than the value of your goose for it--will you buy?' 'How can
you ask?' said Hans; 'I should be the happiest man in the world, if I
could have money whenever I put my hand in my pocket: what could I
want more? there's the goose.' 'Now,' said the grinder, as he gave him
a common rough stone that lay by his side, 'this is a most capital
stone; do but work it well enough, and you can make an old nail cut
Hans took the stone, and went his way with a light heart: his eyes
sparkled for joy, and he said to himself, 'Surely I must have been
born in a lucky hour; everything I could want or wish for comes of
itself. People are so kind; they seem really to think I do them a
favour in letting them make me rich, and giving me good bargains.'
Meantime he began to be tired, and hungry too, for he had given away
his last penny in his joy at getting the cow.
At last he could go no farther, for the stone tired him sadly: and he
dragged himself to the side of a river, that he might take a drink of
water, and rest a while. So he laid the stone carefully by his side on
the bank: but, as he stooped down to drink, he forgot it, pushed it a
little, and down it rolled, plump into the stream.
For a while he watched it sinking in the deep clear water; then sprang
up and danced for joy, and again fell upon his knees and thanked
Heaven, with tears in his eyes, for its kindness in taking away his
only plague, the ugly heavy stone.
'How happy am I!' cried he; 'nobody was ever so lucky as I.' Then up
he got with a light heart, free from all his troubles, and walked on
till he reached his mother's house, and told her how very easy the
road to good luck was.
Translated from the Grimms' "Kinder und Hausmarchen"
("Fairy Tales") by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes.